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    It’s not every day in Illinois that car companies, environmental organizations, advanced manufacturers, public health advocates and labor unions line up behind the same public policy. Today, that diverse coalition is backing the Powering Up Illinois Act, legislation that would remove the bottlenecks blocking the transition to clean vehicles in our state.  

    Transportation is Illinois’ largest source of climate-warming carbon emissions. To transition to a healthier future, drivers and fleets across Illinois need confidence to make the switch to electric vehicles. That means regulators and utilities cannot be asleep at the switch when planning to ensure that charging stations powering electric vehicles have the energy they need when they need it. In the words of modern electricity's founding father, Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

    There is planning we must do now to facilitate efficient grid connections and ensure Illinoisans are in the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions about their own transportation futures. Illinois’ power grid has historically proven to be more dependable than grids in other states with large populations, like California and Texas, but to ensure future reliability and affordability we must thoughtfully plan and prepare for evolving energy demands.

    This need for deliberate planning is why there is such a broad coalition supporting the Powering Up Illinois Act. To ensure a dependable grid, supporters recognize that our state must enable utilities to make investments necessary to achieve state decarbonization and air quality goals, direct regulators to establish timelines for connecting charging infrastructure to the grid and help support the trained workforce needed to get the job done. Doing so would also help put downward pressure on electric rates to benefit all utility customers, whether they own an electric vehicle or not.

    Governor Pritzker has set ambitious goals for making Illinois the best state to drive and build electric vehicles, with an audacious target of one million clean cars on the road by 2030. Just last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set stronger tailpipe emissions standards, which will likely increase adoption of zero-emission cars and trucks. Thanks to the federal infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, Illinois will see a steady flow of federal funds to build out charging infrastructure at scale. The success of all these policies flows through the grid.

    Illinois has also been identified as a zero-emission freight hub by the federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. It’s a natural fit and potential economic boon for a state that has historically been a multimodal transportation hub at America’s crossroads, but it means we will need the capacity for new clean trucks and other modes of freight to connect to the grid. Making small, sequential grid upgrades to accommodate those vehicles as they come online is significantly slower and more costly than rightsizing the infrastructure from the outset.

    Automakers, truck manufacturers, and fleet managers are already facing regulatory hurdles and long waits to acquire power for EV charging. The status quo is a threat to Illinois’ burgeoning EV manufacturing industry, the livelihoods of 14,000 Illinois workers employed in the clean transportation sector, and our future as the national epicenter of clean transportation.

    The Illinois General Assembly can get this right and ensure a thoughtful plan for a clean transportation future. If they don’t, we could be planning to fail.

    Muhammed Patel is the transportation advocate at NRDC. He lives in Chicago. 

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